tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 27, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
on the broadcast tonight, up for grabs, with no clear front-runner, iowa is a field of dreams, and it's a full court press one week until voters have their say. in the money, what are your family's finances look like? wait until you hear what some members of congress are worth. the gap with the folks back ho is growing. trading places. it's what residents in one city are doing to help their friends and neighbors through tough times. millions checking out the world's newest superstar. we're all aboard the polar express. "nightly news" begins now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
good evening, brian is off tonight, i'm lester holt. brace for a change of seasons. no sooner do americans ring in the new year, then the first votes of the 2012 presidential race will be cast. it will happen one week from today. the iowa caucuses will officially kick off the primary season, and for republicans, it's the start of an eight month-long marathon to pick a challenger for president obama. finally, the voters will get their first crack at whittling down the crowded field of candidates. peter alexander starts us off from des moines. >> reporter: with just one precious week to go before the iowa caulk uses, airwaves are flooded with new ads. what voters decide to do next tuesday remains largely unpredictable.
the republican presidential candidates returned in force for the christmas holiday today. all together scheduling 20 stops in iowa. with ron paul showing consistent support and mitt romney investing heavily here, the real battle may be to determine which republican emerges as the proven choice. stumping today with controversial arizona sheriff, joe arpaio. iowans have been indecisive this year. >> none of these candy zaidates talking about, america's best days are in front of us, and i'm going to lead us to america's best days. it's harder to get enthusiastic. >> since the summer, seven different republicans have led statewide polls, making americans hopeful. spending $10 million on ads this month alone. most of it has been to attack newt gingrich, whose support now
appears to be fading. another sign of trouble for the former house speaker, conflicting stories about the end of his first marriage. on his website, he claims his first wife asked for the divorce. now, court documents suggest gingrich himself requested the split. also today, romney mocked gingrich for failing to get on the ballot in his home state of virginia. >> i think you can compare that to pearl harbor. it's more like lucille ball at the chocolate factory. >> you have to get it organized. >> this month, romney and romney supporters spent more than anybody here, targeting gingrich and trying to appeal to the moderate party. today conservatives attacked him on the issue of abortion, launching a new text message campaign, supporting romney's past prochoice views. ron paul sat out today. he arrives tomorrow.
also tonight, rick perry has filed a court challenge to have his name added to the virginia ballot, something that could help newt gingrich if that goes in perry's favor. >> walk me through it, the conventional wisdom, you wanted to make it to the top three. is it conceivable all of them make it through iowa? or are some in danger of dying on the vine right there? >> no, it seems likely they continue past iowa to new hampshire. the only candidate to say he would pack up and go home if he comes in dead last, rick perry. jon huntsman isn't campaigning in this state. rick perry has enough money he's confident he can continue past iowa.
newt gingrich hopes his campaign picks up by the end of the month in south carolina. tonight president obama is still on his family vacation, and getting some good news about his approval ratings. our white house correspondent kristen welker joins us now from honolulu. good evening. >> reporter: good evening to you, lester. the white house rarely comments on poll numbers because they're so volatile. one senior administration official admits these new numbers are good news heading into the new year. taking a look at monday's gallop damely tracking poll numbers. 47% of american as prove of the job the president is doing, and 45% disapprove. that's a five month high and consist enlt wient with multipl taken in december. what's driving this uptick, likely the president's recent
victory in the payroll tax cut. the unemployment rate, and a strong holiday shopping season. economists warn while there are positive signs that the economy is improving, the economy is far from healthy and also instability in europe could derail what's happening here. while is there are encouraging indicators for the president, there could be set backs as well as you know, republicans have been hammering him on the campaign trail. he has to refight the payroll tax cut debate, and, of course, the unemployment rate will be key to his re-election. lester? >> kristen welker tonight, thank you. one more political note, today nebraska senator ben nelson, a democrat announced he will not seek re-election in 2012, making even harder for democrats to hang on to that senate seat in a heavily republican state. top democratic aids tell nbc newskurry is considering
getting into the race to replace nelson. be sure to book mark our new site, nbcpolitics.com. now we turn to a wrenching story, a christmas day house fire in connecticut that killed five members of the same family. three children and their grandparents. and a reminder that these kind of fires peak in the winter months. especially in this month of december. officials have revealed the cause of the christmas day fire in connecticut. and craig melvin has our report. >> just before 5:00 christmas morning, neighbors heard screams and saw flames shooting from the badger house on shiphand lane. >> there's a fire at the house next door to us. the whole house is on fire, a major major fire, with people in the house. >> we have people on the way, ma'am. >> please, please come.
>> madonna badger desperately trying to direct them to the rooms where her family members were trapped. firemen had to drag her away. officials revealed what caused the deadly fire. >> the fire appears to have been caused by hot fireplace ash and embers which had been discarded. >> reporter: lily was 10, sarah and grace 7. their grandparents were also killed. johnson dressed here as san tarks didn't just wear the suit for family. this year he worked as st. nick at saks 5th avenue. his family was found in a part of the roof just outse the window. >> he found one of the young children, he guided her to the window he went through. we found the little girl just inside that structure, just inside that window that he was just outsite of. >> officials say it's not clear if the home had working smoke
detectors, but because of renovations, the badger family should not have been living there. madonna and her friend mike are the only survivors. >> you are never prepared for anything like this. it's heartbreaking. our job is to rescue people when they're in danger. you feel like, when you don't make that rescue, you failed. >> reporter: bulldozers demolished the charred shelf what was once the badger family home. just feet away, a makeshift memorial and a tragic reminder of lives lost on christmas. we turn to the economy now. the company that owns sears and kmart said today it will close more than 100 stores after lackluster sales during the holidays. walmart and target spruced up their stores and drive prices down. americans are wrapping their
gifts back up, and sending them on a one way trip back to the store. thanh truong joins us from a busy ups hub in kentucky where the return packages are coming fast and furious. thanh, good evening. >> reporter: ups adelivering 300 packages per second. a lot of those packages are on a conveyor belt like this. at this facility alone, they're sorting through 56,000 packages each hour, and it's going to get busier as more shoppers are saying, send it back 37 return season is in full swing at ups. the world's largest shipping company with its signature brown trucks, estimates return shipments will increase from last year. >> they send gifts for christmas, and then turning around and send them all back. >> reporter: online shopping was
up 15% this year. >> with the convenience of being able to order on a saturday or sunday from your couch, you're going to see an increase in those ecommerce sales. >> reporter: online revenue has been steadily growing. more than $44 billion was spent in 2009. that number rose to almost 52 billion in 2010. and forecasters expect this year's online sales to approach $60 billion. free shipping was an even bigger trend this year. nine out of ten retailers offered free delivery this holiday. for zappos, it's been a banner year. but returns are inevitable. and zappos, which is second only to amazon.com, knows that free return shipping boosts the bottom line. >> it's important we have the fast shipping and free returns,
because that's what drives our customers to our website. >> this season of giving now giving way to returns. >> and to handle all of the holiday rush and the returns, ups hired 55,000 seasonal workers, all the crews are working getting ready for national returns day, happening exactly one week from today. >> thank you. mixed news driving the markets after strong retail sales this holiday season, consumer confidence surged to an eight month high. home prices dropped in major cities. on wall street the dow finished up even, down 2 points. the nasdaq and s&p 500 closed slightly up. prince phillip has returned to the royal family's country estate after four nights in the hospital, following treatment for a blocked coren airy artery. queen elizabeth's 90-year-old husband smiled as reporters and well wishers began ired to see
him off. the wealthy and working class. news tonight about where that grap is growing, and who's a big part of that 1%. he might just be the most popular orphan since annie. irret called atrial fibrillation, or afib, that's not caused by a heart valve problem? are you taking warfarin to reduce your risk of stroke caused by a clot? you should know about pradaxa. an important study showed that pradaxa 150mg reduced stroke risk 35% more than warfarin. and with pradaxa, there's no need for those regular blood tests. pradaxa is progress. pradaxa can cause serious, sometimes fatal, bleeding. don't take pradaxa if you have abnormal bleeding, and seek immediate medical care for unexpected signs of bleeding like unusual bruising. pradaxa may increase your bleeding risk if you're 75 or older, have kidney problems or a bleeding condition, like stomach ulcers. or if you take aspirin products, nsaids, or blood thinners. tell your doctor about all medicines you take,
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we're back now with a growing gap that's gets a lot of attention today in a year where we saw growing outrage of the 99 versus the 1%. many americans have seen their incomes remain flat and their savings take a hit. the overall net worth of lawmakers has grown a lot. and nearly half of all members are millionaires. what's behind the numbers?
here's lisa myers. >> reporter: while most americans have gotten poorer in the last few years, a new study finds that members of congress have done quite well. since 2004 the median net worth of members of congress is up 15%, while the median net worth for all americans is down 8%. >> when you have nearly half of congress being millionaires, it's easy to see how the gap in understanding credibility can grow between congress and the people they're trying to represent. >> reporter: members of congress only have to report broad ranges of assets. all four congressional leaders appear to be millionaires, some many times over. democrat nancy pelosi is worth between 6 and $196 million. mitch mcconnell between 10 and 44 million. harry reid between 3 and 10 million. speaker john boehner has the least money, between 2 and $6
million. one explanation for the increasing wealth in congress, is that running for office takes so much time and money, it favors wealthy candidates. but there's also evidence that politicians are getting richer while in office. professors at georgia state found that both senators and congressmen did significantly better than the market when they traded stocks. >> they're in a position to do great things for themselves, and there's a lot of evidence in a suggests that that's exactly what they're doing. >> why do you think they're doing so much better than the rest of us? >> i think they're trading out information that we don't have. >> an analysis by the washington post suggests the increasing gap between rich and poor shown in this graph correlates with the increasing polarization of congress. and all of that serves to alienate an already d disillusioned public. when we come back, tricks of the trade to make it through a challenging economy.
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the residents of one new england city are taking an old school approach to help their friends and neighbors get through these tough times. some folks in portland, maine don't have the cash to get all the goods and services they need. instead, they're using their time and talents and trading places. we get the details tonight from ron mott. >> the jobs number today was awful. >> the economy has been softening, that's the worry
here. >> reporter: in today's tough economy, making the most of what's in your wallet is a challenge. so in communities across the country, folks are putting a modern twist on the age old barter system. >> average people are getting together to trade services using time as a currency. this is a way of neighbors helping neighbors, outside of the cash economy. >> reporter: the movement is called hour exchange. here in maine, time really is money. with 750 members, this group trades talents and tasks, building up hours to swap for services later on. >> people who might say, i'm not very good at -- >> everybody has skills. everybody has skills, period. that's the only thing you can do in the whole world is bake cookies, there's a place for you, man. >> no matter the skill, it's give an hour, get an hour back. >> no cracks. >> christine banks time winterizing steven's basement.
jennifer earned an hour of free health care. and a seam stress is making a costume for an 8-year-old. >> i'm busy, raising two kids and getting some of the things that i need that i don't have cash to pay for. >> more than just an scharng of time and talent, this movement is really about building communities. every month they hold a pot luck dinner which leads to more exchanges. the system won't and shouldn't replace a cash economy. they say it does empower people by giving them options without ever spending a penny. >> i offer music as a service. >> reporter: and monique's performance at this gathering, she's offering music for a future trade. that's muse toik everyone's ears. history was made on a football field in new orleans. >> putback, 87 yards, free
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finally tonight, meet the web's newest viral superstar. millions of hits on youtube, folks from around the world following every nap, every yawn, stretch, and roll on his belly. he's a popular polar bear cub being cared for around the clock by a group of zookeepers in denmark. here's michelle kosinski with his story. >> reporter: from the dark frozen north comes quite possibly the kwutest, warmest, furriest creature with his tongue sticking out, that nature can manage to produce. >> right now, he's just a fine little ball.
>> reporter: this happy little fellow was born in denmark last month. when momma polar bear could not produce milk, it's time for zookeepers to take over the job. >> without mother's milk, he would have died three days after he was born. he took to the bottle straightaway. it's been a success from day one. >> reporter: around the clock, making sure his potbelly doesn't get in his way. at a hungry seven pounds now, he's doing great. those big fuzzy feet are a reminder that there's a big bear in there that will come out one day. calls to mind one other famous polar bear, kanut, who inspired songs and merchandising before becoming a little too large to snuggle.
he died in march of encephalitis only four years old. this well cared for bears can live 40 years. it's believed there are only 25,000 of them left in the world. >> the sea ice melts and the polar bears die of starvation because they can't catch seals. >> reporter: in a few years, breeding time. >> he may be having a few trips abroad to visit female polar bears. >> reporter: already a darling of the internet. being called unbearably adorable. the little polar bear, who doesn't even know he's melting hearts by the millions. michelle kosinski, nbc news, london. that's our broadcast for this tuesday night, thanks for being with us, i'm lester holt in tonight for brian. we hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening. good night.